Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter five, part one.
The Masaala Ghar Indian restaurant is only about a hundred and fifty yards from the house, so we invariably walk there except, of course, when the weather is unusually foul, as it was on this particular evening.
I shouted up to Penny as she was getting ready for the evening, “Walk with umbrella, raincoats and even probably galoshes, or—”
“Hail a ride,” she replied. Ever the dutiful husband, I summoned a car, making sure it was a decent size. No way do I want to try and squeeze my frame into one of those tiny city-cars. “Fifteen minutes,” I shouted up.
“Will that get us there in time?” my wife asked.
“Should do,” I replied, “two or three minutes late at worst.”
“Okay,” she said, walking into the dining room where I’d been standing waiting for her.
“By golly, you look ravishing this evening, Mrs Rogerson,” I said, “had I not been… you know… I’d have been sorely tempted to throw you across the dining table and ravage you right now.”
“Oh, stop it, you soft old bugger,” she said, blushing prettily, “are you going like that?”
“What do you mean, like that?”
“You’ve got half of your lunch all over your shirt.”
“Where?” I asked, looking down.
“There,” she said, pointing a finger close to my solar plexus and bringing it up quickly to flick my nose.
I stepped back and laughed.
“No, seriously, there’s tomato ketchup on your shirt. Go and change it, there’s plenty in your shirt drawer.”
“No time,” I said, hearing the cab draw up the drive.
“Do it!” she commanded.
I did it. I climbed the stairs as quickly as I could, ripped my shirt off, took another from the drawer and put it on, tucking it into the waistband of my trousers as I was descending the staircase. I went through the open front door, closed and locked it and set the alarm before stepping into the car – a generously-proportioned SUV of a type I hadn’t seen before.
“Masaala Ghar?” the driver asked.
“Please,” I replied as we pulled silently out of the drive. “Is this car electric?” I asked.
“Sure is. I’ve got it for a couple of weeks to evaluate. If it works out, we’ll replace all our diesel cars with electric over the next year or so.”
“Yeah. I’ve got the EQC and my mate Eric has the MG ZS. Other people around the country are trialling different models. We’re here, by the way.”
“Thanks, and good luck. Nice car, by the way.”
“Thank you,” he said as Penny and I exited the vehicle, “have a pleasant evening.”
I chuckled slightly at that. Whatever I was expecting of this evening, I certainly wouldn’t imagine the word ‘pleasant’ would be appropriate.
As we entered the restaurant, the head waiter, Ravinderpal, approached me. “Good evening Mr Rory, Mrs Rory,” he said.
“Good evening, Ravi. I hope you’re well. Pity about the weather.”
“Not a problem, Sir. It’s warm and dry in here.” I smiled. “Mr Charlie is waiting for you in the Langar room, shall I show you through?”
I know exactly where the Langar room is and I have no need of help finding it. However, I learned a long time ago that what Ravi, in common with many of his compatriots, was displaying was not subservience and certainly wasn’t paying lip-service to the attitudes fostered during the Raj, the days when the light-skinned man was master and the role of the dark-skinned man or woman was servant. No, what Ravi was displaying was a level of service, not servitude, that conferred as much dignity and self-respect on him as it gave to us, his customers. So I accepted his offer in good grace. “You’re very kind,” I said, “Thank you.”
“Thank you, Sir,” he replied, “It is my pleasure to be of service.”